Road rage accidents can be extremely scary experiences. It is always unsettling to anger a stranger and be totally at the mercy of his temper. And, as we all know, there are plenty of us walking around (and driving around!) with bad tempers just waiting to be set off. When that happens, our roadways in Maryland become treacherous places.
This article on the handling of temper induced car crashes addresses:
- The Serious Dangers Posed by Road Rage Accidents
- The Most Dangerous Types of Road Rage Accidents
- Unique Aspects Specific to Maryland Law in Civil Road Rage Claims
- Verdicts and Settlements in Road Rage Accident Cases
The Serious Risk Posed By Road Rage Related Crashes
Road rage accidents are as scary as they are typical these days. Consider the following statistics: Half of all drivers who have been on the receiving end of an obscene gesture, been cut off, or been tailgated admit to responding by honking their horns, lofting their own obscene gestures, and tailgating or cutting off the other driver.
Some people, about 27 percent of those polled, admitted to screaming back at the other driver even though they knew they could not be heard. And the most frightening statistic to emerge is that 2 percent of drivers admitted to trying to run the aggressor off the road! Given the amount of admittedly hot-tempered drivers out there, it is easy to see how road rage accidents have become so common.
Most Common Road Rage Crashes
The following are common types of accidents involving road rage incidents:
- A motorist “steals” a parking space from another motorist, causing words to be exchanged. The angry motorist then rams his car into the back of the car parked in the space, injuring the driver, or worse, a pedestrian caught in the crossfire.
- A motorist cuts another motorist off on the freeway, angering the other driver and prompting him to aggressively tailgate and rear-end the motorist.
- A motorist becomes angry at the slow speed of the car in front of him and tailgates that car, rear-ending it and causing a multi-car accident.
Unique Aspect of Maryland Law on Punitive Damages in These Cases
Under Maryland law and the language of the auto insurance policies written here, car insurance will not pay for punitive damages for intentionally caused harm. So if someone tries to crash into you in anger in a road rage type scenario, the insurer is not going to pay any punitive damages award (or any other damages for that matter).
But Maryland law seemingly allows punitive damages in uninsured and uninsured motorist cases. So if someone who has either no or limited insurance intentionally causes a collision, you can sue that driver for all damages, including punitive damages, and your own insurer is obligated to pay those damages. This surprises people and sounds illogical at first glance. But the law sometimes makes sense, not by looking at a piece of the puzzle, but by seeing the entire puzzle.
So when a driver intentionally hits your vehicle, he essentially becomes uninsured. Ironically, if you have a large uninsured motorist policy, you are probably better off – for lots of reasons – by getting hit by a driver intentionally in a road rage claim than you would be in an ordinary traffic collision.
Example Case that Illustrates the Issues in Lost Temper Crashes
Nate is a real hot-headed guy. We all know some version of this guy. In high school, he was expelled from two different schools for fighting and using abusive language to other students and teachers. Even though he was punished for his anger problem, he never thought it necessary to get help. To Nate, a hot temper is the sign of a real man who is willing to defend himself in any confrontation. To say the least, physical confrontation is clearly something Nate does not avoid.
As Nate pulls out of his driveway, he hangs a quick right at the light and proceeds onto Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. As he drives along blaring loud, aggressive rap music and hanging his head out of the driver’s window as he puffs on a cigarette, he notices that the man in the car in front of him is driving a few miles below the speed limit. That driver, Bob, is simply a careful driver who always abides by the speed limit. But to Nate, Bob’s slow speed is impeding his travel and, he thinks, is a direct act of disrespect aimed his way.
Nate, getting impatient and angry, starts to tailgate very closely behind Bob’s car to give Bob the message that he should get out of the way. But Bob, careful and patient, refuses to be rushed and chooses to ignore Nate. Being ignored, however, makes Nate extremely angry. He pulls into the adjacent lane and gets right up close to Bob’s window, giving him the finger and spewing profanity at him. Bob is startled, as anyone would be, but he continues to proceed carefully and to ignore Nate as best he can. Again, Nate hates being ignored. He decides he should sharply cut in front of Bob as a means of revenge.
As he cuts Bob off, Bob is unable to stop in time to avoid colliding with the rear of Nate’s vehicle. Bob loses control of his car, which flips over and slides off the road. Bob is paralyzed from the waist down and must be airlifted to a hospital where administering emergency aid failed to save the use of his legs. This accident, we would argue, is Nate’s fault and his insurance carrier should be made to compensate Bob for his injuries.
Example Road Rage Verdicts and Settlements
- 2021, California: $1,250,000 Settlement. A 16-year-old boy drove his pickup truck. At the same time, another driver was passing other vehicles on the road. He cut the boy off, causing a single-vehicle collision. The tortfeasor left the scene. The boy suffered a severe left-hand degloving injury. His left hand and wrist were now incapacitated. The boy alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. He claimed he unsafely operated his vehicle, excessively sped, and drove with road rage. This case settled for $1,250,000.
- 2021, Washington: $128,767 Verdict. A 44-year-old man was cut off by a driver who immediately slammed his brakes. He rear-ended the vehicle. The other driver confronted the man and assaulted him. The man also sustained chronic spinal sprains. His injuries were permanent. The man alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. He claimed he recklessly cut him off. The man received $128,767.
- 2021, South Carolina: $1,200,000 Bench Verdict. A man rode in a vehicle. His driver became infuriated and struck a tree. The man was ejected from the vehicle. He injured his head, wrist, and back. The man alleged negligence against his driver. He claimed he failed to control his vehicle, stay in his travel lane, travel at appropriate speeds, and failed to exercise due caution. Following a bench trial, the man received $1,200,000.
- 2020, Oregon: $26,483,463 Verdict. A woman was struck head-on during a road rage incident that involved four trucks. Her husband survived but suffered rib fractures and a spleen laceration. He alleged negligence against the truck drivers. The man received $26,483,463.
- 2018, Louisiana: $484,676 Verdict. A woman was going through a divorce. Her estranged husband secretly put a GPS tracker on her car. One evening, she and her friend left a hotel to go to dinner. The estranged husband arrived at the hotel. He saw his estranged wife’s vehicle. The estranged husband also saw her leaving with her friend in his vehicle. He ran the vehicle into a median. Brandishing a pistol, he fired several shots and broke a window. The woman and her friend fled. Her estranged husband chased them. He rammed their vehicle multiple times. The man threatened to kill them. He also pistol-whipped the friend. The woman suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Her friend suffered a cervical injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. They alleged intentional and negligent conduct against the woman’s estranged husband. The jury awarded $484,676.
Getting a Lawyer for Your Claim
Road rage accidents are both scary and severe. If you have been the victim of an angry driver who caused an accident that left you injured, you may have a claim. At Miller & Zois, we have a track record of success and can help you evaluate and bring that claim. Please contact us at 800-553-8082 or get a free case evaluation online.